Spanish press compare Barcelona defender to ex-Leeds United star - why?

Thomas Vermaelen Pre FA Cup Press Conference

Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelen has endured a nightmare start to life in Spain.

Barcelona came second in La Liga last season, and that clearly wasn't good enough, as the Catalan giants effectively cleaned house this summer.

Out went manager Gerardo Martino as well as well-known players such as Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Cristian Tello, Ibrahim Afellay and Bojan, with new manager Luis Enrique snapping up Claudio Bravo, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Jeremy Mathieu, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez in a bid to reclaim the La Liga title.

Whilst most of those players have made some sort of impact this season, one player has been on the sidelines throughout - defender Thomas Vermaelen.

The 28-year-old centre back had slipped behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the Arsenal pecking order, and despite interest from Manchester United, the Belgian joined Barcelona for £15m.

Many people slammed Barca's decision to pay so much for a defender who had not only disappointed in the last 18 months, but who also had chronic injury problems.

Barcelona completed the deal anyway, but appear to have made a huge mistake. Now as we head into the middle of November, Vermaelen has still yet to even play a competitive game for Barcelona - which has led to a surprise comparison.

Vermaelen's situation in Catalunya has prompted Spanish media to compare him to former Leeds United centre back Jonathan Woodgate.

Woodgate, now 34, joined Leeds at the age of 16 and after establishing himself as one of the top young centre backs in England, Newcastle forked out £9m to snap him up.

Despite playing just 37 games in 18 months due to injury, Real Madrid believed he could help their defence, subsequently paying £13.4m for his services.

That was a terrible decision from Real, with Woodgate failing to even play one game in his first season at the club because of more injuries, whilst his second season saw him play just 14 games before being sent back to England with Middlesbrough.

Woodgate is considered as one of Real Madrid's worst ever signings, and his situation is eerily similar to that of Vermaelen - and Barcelona must be concerned that they've wasted £15m on a broken defender.

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